Eight bombs taken from truck in parking lot of Mid-City bank

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- A device is removed from a pick-up truck parked in the parking lot of the Whitney National Bank in Mid-City. The New Orleans Police bomb squad recovered eight devices from a tan truck at Canal Street near Jefferson Davis Parkway Monday.  Several blocks were evacuated as a precaution.
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- A device is removed from a pick-up truck parked in the parking lot of the Whitney National Bank in Mid-City. The New Orleans Police bomb squad recovered eight devices from a tan truck at Canal Street near Jefferson Davis Parkway Monday. Several blocks were evacuated as a precaution.

Federal authorities Monday afternoon were trying to figure out who put eight small bombs inside of a pickup that was parked for days in the lot of a Mid-City bank.

An officer working a detail at the Whitney Bank on Canal Street and North Jefferson Davis Parkway found the first device inside the truck after someone told him it had been parked in the branch’s lot since Friday, said Officer Frank Robertson, a New Orleans Police Department spokesman.

A subsequent search of the truck by the NOPD bomb squad turned up seven other devices.

An analysis of the devices found inside of the Ford F150 revealed that they contained a combustible compound that could have caused an explosion, Robertson said late Monday afternoon.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives took charge of the investigation after that revelation. The agency took the devices to its lab for more analysis, Robertson said.

Senior Special Agent Austin Banks, spokesman for the ATF’s New Orleans Field Division, said that agents were working now to figure out who was responsible for constructing the bombs and what he or she intended to do with them.

The bombs’ discovery forced the evacuation of several blocks near the bank and saw one of the neighborhood’s busiest intersections closed for about four hours as authorities worked to remove the items and clear the scene.

The officer who was working the detail at the Whitney found the first bomb inside the truck about 9:30 a.m.

He opened one of the truck’s doors and saw that the item had a fuse and timer and had begun to smolder, Robertson said.

The officer, a former Marine who feared the device might be incendiary, closed the truck’s door and called in the report, prompting an evacuation of the bank and homes and businesses within a two-block radius and forcing the closure of portions of Canal Street and North and South Jefferson Davis parkways, Robertson said.

A bomb robot found three devices inside of the truck. Sgt. Todd Morrell, commander of the NOPD’s bomb squad, later found five more devices inside the truck, Robertson said.

All eight devices were safely removed from the truck, Robertson said, and placed into a bomb pod.

Robertson said police were able to identify the truck’s owner but had not been able to make contact with him or her by the time the scene was cleared about 1:30 p.m.

Whoever is responsible for causing Monday’s incident could face federal charges and fines, Robertson said.

Banks noted that the construction of the bombs could net someone up to 10 years in prison.

He asked anyone with information about the incident to call the ATF bomb hotline at (888) 283-2662.